|The gap of Usumacinta, Montes Azules, Chiapas: photo Rich Hoyer|
In order to sell carbon permits to the California government and polluting industries that support its cap-and-trade plan, Chiapas authorities propose driving a line through the Lacandon Jungle to define the REDD area, with consequent abuse and pollution of indigenous territory. In March 2011, state government officials admitted to Global Justice Ecology that they plan to open the Lacandon by bridging the area of the canyons, "where the Zapatistas live". The new cutline would define a forest preserve.
Exactly what they planned four decades ago, when a survey of the territory of one of the seven indigenous peoples to open up "the Lacandon cutline" united the entire region against it, and sparked formation of the EZLN.
In 1971, the government granted 614 321 hectares (almost 10,000 each) of forest to 66 "Lacandon community members" -- despite the fact that they are not of that tribe, nor original inhabitants of that region -- adding to the existing chaos of overlapping land titles; the grant was never surveyed because of indigenous resistance. But ever since these so-called "Lacandon" have given signed consent for timber, tourism or (most recently) REDD projects and contracts submitted to them by the government. The real Lacandones were killed around 1700; other communities migrated there or were displaced under threat in recent decades.
REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) is presented as a program to prevent the emission of greenhouse gases caused by deforestation, paying carbon credits to owners to avoid clearing forest. But local communities, once foreign consultants certify a management plan, cannot use the forest and lose autonomy over the territory.
This is great for polluters, who get "indulgence" to continue emissions and/or resell credits at a profit to other companies. It costs them nothing and defeats environmental regulation. On April 7, 2011, Greenpeace International published Bad Influence, a report denouncing McKinsey, a Wall Street consultancy long active in privatization projects, and now a REDD "adviser" to poor countries. McKinsey inflated statistics for Guyana and the Congo, to show future deforestation trends far greater than the real; these baselines allow higher REDD credits and further deforestation, because it is supposedly less than the inflated projection.
Previous "payments" to communities in Mexico reveal concrete examples of resource-stripping that these schemes can cause. REDD and PES are similar mechanisms. "Payment to protect the forest" actually means depriving small communities of their land rights. There are cases in Oaxaca where after a 5-year payment for environmental services, the state declared a 30-year "protected natural area" against the will of the community. Deprived of their traditional forest livelihood, they had to migrate, even though they held the land title.
That's what is about to happen in the forests and jungles of Chiapas: selling corporations permits to trade pollution for the carbon absorbed by forests, dislocating the forest communities (another government strategy) to so-called "sustainable rural towns". Displaced and uprooted, deprived of the means to live in dignity, they are mere pawns of the state, to be replaced with biofuel plantations.
Technically these are not REDD projects, but they forecast the future. The Mexican example shows what happens when a state governor (Juan Sabines) and cronies lay a foundation for market mechanisms. When consultants inflate statistics to justify claims of "biomass", "less" deforestation, and "carbon absorption." When Ecosur graduates, the national REDD committee and an alphabet soup of government agencies (Conafor, CONABIO, SEMARNAT), and carbon traders provide "greenwash" for polluters to claim they are promoting conservation and biodiversity. Who loses? The indigenes, the forest, and the planet.
Last but not least is remote-sensing technology, by a semi-military satellite that "indicates the capacity of carbon sequestration" combined with on-the-ground monitoring for which local men are already in training. All very clean and scientific, tracking not only wildlife but also the humans who live there -- monitoring "Zapatistas" and preparing for the next generation of biopiracy.
***See also the Durban Statement on REDD (2010), and No REDD: a reader, prepared for the Cancún climate negotiations by Global Justice Ecology Project, Censat Agua Viva, Amazon Watch, Acción Ecológica, COECOCEIBA, OFRANEH, World Rainforest Movement, Carbon Trade Watch, RisingTide, ETC Group, Indigenous Environmental Network and REDD-Monitor.